Sky Journal – Just published!

Looks like my book of poems from Dusie Press is now published! Check out my book page here.

cover art by Colleen Hammond

cover art by Colleen Hammond

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Hassen Saker is at the eye of the storm for a new generation, lyric & personal & analytic & tough, committed to no medium but the truth. This is a book of wands.
~Ron Silliman

…unlike the Romantic, who both surveys and defines the sublime from his own icy pinnacle, Saker carefully dismantles sublimity’s power over language.
~Jean Day

Re-encounter, immerse, savor and …. read them, yes, but I suggest u do something with these fierce beautiful poems, too.
~Natalie Jeremijenko

Read full blurbs here

Read more about the project on my “The Next Big Thing” post here

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Among Elements

BWplane13eCropBrdWEBHi Friends, I’m having a little show of images, text & video up for the month of June in Westmont, NJ. Here are a few photos from the show.  There will be a reception/reading on June 8th from 2-4pm. Espressit Coffeehouse 18 Haddon Ave, Westmont, NJ 08108

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terra lingua: three aspects – a film-poem installation

cymatics

from Cymatics (Frequencies)

Here’s the accompanying text for the installation I have in Global Intersection 2013: A World of Materials and Methods, up at Globe Dye Works in Philadelphia.

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terra lingua: three aspects
*transmedia installation by Hassen Saker
October 2013

from Cymatics (Frequencies)

We’ve for centuries explored and debated the question, “What is Nature?” One can argue that, like Tao, nothing existing in the world is outside of Nature, same applies to that which we imagine does not exist – it, too, is ‘Nature.’ This argument, often presently posed as a question, irritates me. Maybe because to me Nature in truth remains with an embodied definition, as it is embodiment, and less rhetorical. But mostly because I suspect it’s a diversion from addressing the issue of Climate Change and ecocide – a reactive argument to a[n] a/morality that has nothing to do with the Ethic of Reciprocity; it’s reactive to the idea of punishment rather than acknowledging actual consequences more complex than a quick equation or sound bite. An attitude that the planet can take whatever damage we inflict is narcissistic and irrelevant. It encourages disembodiment and domination. Even if it proves true, all creatures, including humans, suffer for it. Beauty suffers for it. We can dismiss others’ and even our own negligence with the excuse that everything is ultimately O.K. But where does that lead or leave us? Certainly away from experience, here, now, what we feel, in the thick of our co-mingled matter.

The rhetorical question on the philosophy of Nature (which is really about ‘what is natural’) leads us away from it. It fails to address the more pertinent and useful concern: our deep feelings of loss in a world that’s increasingly anthropogenic – further removed from the earth, our biology and each other. We should trust such warnings in our limbic systems. This state of separation is a device of domination, insisted upon for centuries by those seeking egocentric or material gain over love of beauty or satisfaction from being of service. Its modus operandi is to create a rift between peoples, from people and their food, their water, their bodies, their spirituality, to further exploit vulnerabilities. It is sociopathy at the basic level; isolate people from Nature (that which harmoniously – or dissonantly – occurs in the ecosystem that sustains us) so that they more fully depend on others with keys to their survival – including the welfare of what some may consider the soul. I’m not the first to argue that it is, in fact, our souls that are diminished when we divorce ourselves from Nature.

from NanoNetworks (Transmissions)

Listen, Nature is simply our ecosystem that would exist independently of human production. It’s efficient, self-contained – constantly seeking equilibrium and harmony even in dissonance. It doesn’t take without giving. It’s all that we perceive in our viscera as beauty.

I’m not concerned about the end of the human race so much as I am with humanity struggling to survive without feeling beauty – its soul, its milk. No, to be more specific, I’m concerned about individual suffering, especially the suffering that occurs without experiencing beauty. With this project, I’m interested in exploring what makes Nature work in a way that maximizes sentient lasting satisfaction. I don’t address the conceptual semantics of Nature but her sensory communication.  This is a means to an end; I’m particularly curious about how she entices us, via pleasure, to connect with her to better ensure her survival and ours. Are we biologically coded – and triggered – to protect her, to protect that which sustains us – and if so, how do we carry out that program?

This project consists of three videos – Haptics (Skins), NanoNetworks (Transmission), and Cymatics (Frequencies). Three aspects of an Earth language (or ‘mother tongue’) that are not human-centric but human-enhancing. (The irony of me writing ‘poems’ about non-verbal communication is not lost on me, of course – rather, it’s ‘tongue-in-cheek’) Information is the measurable connection between all matter. It’s transmitted in waves or vibration (light, sound) and in molecular and electric modes. I address touch (haptics), sound waves’ impact on matter (cymatics here – imaging of patterns created by sound), and chemical/molecular communication (nanonetworks) – what happens in our bodies and in all bodies, especially fascinating in the symbiotic networks of mycorrhiza.

from Haptics (Skins)

from Haptics (Skins)

What’s most exciting for me is the impetus of beauty, our pleasure response to how she communicates in sublime holistic (that is, non-anthropogenic) fashion, and how we are inspired to propagate it. Think of how you may yearn to share with someone your experience of a particularly amazing sunset, for instance. None of us would exist without communication, sure. We’d not exist without this enigma we call beauty, either. One could say that to be drawn to beauty is in our “nature” – surely it’s encoded in us. Even if we could exist without beauty, who would want to?

*transmedia describes a work that uses various media as a way into a story or idea. Each element is equally important & immersion is key. For this project, I created & orchestrated audio/score, video/editing and text/narration.
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terra lingua: three aspects will be up through October 27th 2013 as part of the Global Intersection 2013 exhibition curated by Rachel Citrino.  Main gallery will be open to the public from Thursdays through Sundays 9-5. Globe Dye Works, 4500 Worth St, Philadelphia. 

terra lingua: three aspects from Hassen Saker on Vimeo.

Also exhibiting in Global Intersection 2013:

Henry Bermudez

Nancy Citrino

Rachel Citrino

Mauro Corbani

Francesca Costanzo

Jack Larimore

Joseph Leroux

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Boston AWP Conference

IMG_2440

Last week I traveled to Boston with my friend and fellow poet, Ethel Rackin, for the AWP Conference. It was exhausting but well worth it. AWP is an acronym for Association of Writers & Writing Programs, for those who may not know. I’d love to talk more about it, about the panels, and the beautiful books and impressive presses, and the amazing, heartfelt, talented people I was fortunate to spend some time with. But I don’t have time to write more at the moment. Instead, I’ll direct you to some photos I took while there. I only had my camera out for three events but there are a lot of pics for you to check out if you’re so inclined. Head over to my Flickr set here. 

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The Next Big Thing: Divya Victor

Here’s another really great interview from one of my favorites, Divya Victor, for The Next Big Thing. This is a chain “self-interview” wherein once you are tagged you answer the questions & in turn tag five more authors with books about to be (or recently) published. . . 

victor

What is the working title of the book?

Things To Do With Your Mouth is the title. Les Figues is the publisher.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Wailing and weeping make for a great spectacle, obviously. Oprah, Ricki, Maury, Montel, Jerry and the Vatican have all made great profits from them— especially women and children, please. We are these glassy lachrymatoria—our tear ducts are banks that weep out gold. Remember when the mourners at Kim Jong Il’s funerals were imprisoned for not crying sincerely enough? Tears for gold, asshole. Except, there was no gold. Tricked. Weepers should unionize.

Therefore, I’ve been thinking some about the increasingly obsolete practice of moirology— the practice of hiring professional mourners. If you were a rich person, you’d pay someone some money to come and wail and beat their chests at your favorite corpse—your dead father, your dead uncle, your landlord etc. There are women who are hired to cry, wail, and lament for dead strangers— the rudaali of India, the crying women of the Philippines, the carpideira of Brazil. But how they cry for strangers, how they take their tears from some unknown place and give them to some unknown person, how they repeat their performance everyday— and they do this for pay— is nice to think about. Moirologists are paid for their memorialization. The performance of mourning is purely professional– a product of practice. How might poetry resemble this work?

I enjoy thinking about affective labor that is entirely for purchase, for sale. It gives me immense pleasure to know that crocodile tears can be swapped for some kind of purchase in identity politics, post-colonial mourning, whatever gets you the job. Can the subaltern cry wolf and get away with it?

In other words, how much sincerity do you expect to get for an $18 SPD book?

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea for this book came from where all ideas come from– other people’s ideas. Tzara says that all thought begins in the mouth. Or, more accurately, in other people’s mouths.

I get all my ideas from the research I do for my own scholarship. From these ideas I excise of all the affects, histories, and narratives of my own everyday life and put them in a drawer for when my union will pay for psychoanalysis. The rest I make into poems as fast as possible.

That said, the specific notion from which this book emerged is historical. During the late Middle Ages, German-Jewish women who were accused of witchcraft and of eating children were hunted and executed by vigilantes who were afraid that their flesh would be devoured by women with excessive powers of speech and discourse. Before executing these women, the murdering fearful (“faithful”) would allow the accused woman to atone for her chatty, witchy, baby-eating ways if she told them a way to stop her dead comrades from eating flesh from their graves. The fear was that these women continued to have the use of their mouths even after they died. So, one accused woman suggested that they fill the corpse’s mouth with gravel as it laid in its grave. Another woman suggested that they drive a stake through the coffin, right through the corpse’s open maw, until it pierced the skull and went through, pinning the woman to the earth.

The fear of speaking women obviously has a very long history, but the resourcefulness that we’ve shown in silencing these women has not always been as metaphorical as it is now. Fleshy solutions were it. So, for poetry today to approach its feminist purpose, it must address the vocalizing and silenced mouth— it must reorganize the work of this opening. I therefore wanted to make a book that did this to the most minimal degree. The work of this book of poetry is to repeat, recant, and endlessly say again what has already been said. Because it can.  Because it doesn’t mind being a corpse with a mouth full of gravel.

What genre does your book fall under?

Labiomancy and Self Help? Possibly poetry.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

The movie rendition of this book will probably be a scene by scene recreation of The Exorcist by Michael Haneke. All the drama of the social contract, none of the terrible pea soup vomit. No, I’m kidding. It will only be pea soup vomit. Sort of floating in its own abject electromagnetic field.  Therefore, I will probably cast Juliette Lewis to expel it and consume it over and over again.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

The mouth of discourse and the mouth of silence are of one breath, one flesh.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

As long as it takes to hire a professional mourner these days, but longer than it takes for them to be done crying at some stranger’s funeral and get paid. So, about a year.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It contains specific instructions for committing infanticide as well as tips on how to make gags for your lover.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Les Figues Press will release and curate the book’s life.

My tagged writers for next Wednesday are:

Jeremiah Rush Bowen

Holly Melgard

Shiv Kotecha

Julia Bloch

Joey Yearous Algozin

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The Next Big Thing: Kevin Varrone

I recently tagged the very talented Philadelphia poet, Kevin Varrone, for The Next Big Thing – a chain self-interview for writers who have forthcoming or recently published books. Here are Kevin’s responses to the questions.

 

What is the working title of the book?

& all & all that rises

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea for the book came from a few different sources, most concretely, from reading Maggie Nelson’s Bluets and Kate Greenstreet’s The Last Four Things in quick succession. And thinking a lot about stammering as a kind of articulation (vs. a defect in articulation) and sound as a potent sense and source of memory.

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Ralph Macchio for the Wonder Years-esque voice-over narration. I don’t think there are any other characters!

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

You are what you hear and how you say.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The first (longish) poem in the manuscript, “stammer,” didn’t work that way, really. It came together in bits and pieces and fits and starts over 2 + years. The second longer-ish poem, “earshot,” took somewhere around 4 months for the first draft. There might be a common denominator in there somewhere, but that math is beyond me!

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The books I mentioned in Question #2 inspired “earshot.” Also, a memory of being in a tree stand with my brother as a young kid, in the winter, in the morning, when it was still mostly dark and completely silent, and jumping from the tree stand after our father shot at a deer. “Stammer” was inspired by spending a lot of time around kids and just really loving the way they tend to speak; that, and the young son of a friend who was having some difficulty with a stammer. I was just thinking a lot about the relentless normalizing forces in the world and how they turn beautiful things in defects sometimes. I wanted to try to write something that went in the other direction. 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Hmmm. Hard to say. Maybe that it’s a book that tries really hard to put the ear and hearing at the center of the poems (vs. sight). I was––am––really interested in the idea of a sound image. Of language transmitting meaning through sound as much through meaning (i.e., definitions of words). I like how emotion sound is, in a way that painting is emotional for me, or music: emotional without the filter of language and the meaning of words. 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m not sure yet. I don’t anticipate self-publishing it in book form, though I increasingly like the idea of multi-dimensional electronic publications, such as 

http://www.limpencraft.com/

and

http://www.luminousairplanes.com/

 

My tagged writers for next Wednesday are: Sarah Blake, Sue Landers, Chris McCreary, C.E. Putnam, and Carlos Soto Roman

 

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The Next Big Thing: me

I was recently tagged by the wonderful poet, Jenn McCreary last
week for the self-interview chain, The Next Big Thing. I, in turn, am tagging another five
poets, who have recently or are about to have their books published
in print, to continue the chain.

My triptych poetry book, Sky Journals, is going to be published in 2013 by Dusie Press. My turn with The Next Big Thing interview is over at The New Hive if you’d like to take a look.

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Theatre Etc

I’ve been thinking so much these recent years about embodiment of one’s creative action & theatre. There’s both objectivity and subjectivity to be had during action, a zen, of both being and feeling. Or maybe it’s grace/fulness. & I’m talking about the action of authenticity (heart/intention), more than theatrical artifice. Seems it has something to do with the point of connection – empathy/[psychological]catharsis, a shared experience with other humans, maybe other creatures, maybe even inanimate objects if one wants to go that far. Like it’s somehow serving a sociobiological necessity – maybe it’s even a primal drive. Even if there’s no tangible audience but the possibility of an audience, or the perception of one in the creator’s mind. And then maybe it’s the sheer act of beauty, though that latter word is a can of worms.

I saw Carax’ film, Holy Motors, a few weeks ago & I think it addresses some of the same stuff I’ve been mulling.

When asked why he continues taking on ‘assignments’, Oscar answers, “The beauty of the act.” And follows it through – if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, what is left when there is no beholder? Later there’s an allusion to cameras so small that you can’t see them. The notion of an audience without a tangible audience.

I’m unsure what Oscar’s (or Carax’?) answer would be but I’m left with faith. Not trusting that there exists an audience, Omniscient or human, but maybe the action, the perception of the action by its creator, holds a value high enough to influence an objective reality – and maybe the notion of an audience increases that value. Sound familiar? The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics. My translation: it is the act of observing (measurement) that makes something so. And maybe, too, for the thing in action, the perception of being observed.

Since I’ve been working on the BRUT project, the idea(s) of theatre has become paramount to me. With performances, I’m aware that the work can be obnoxious, intense or dark. A lovely poet came up to me after I performed a piece in August and said he remembered me reading from the BRUT work at St. Mark’s in NYC seven or eight years ago. “It scared the crap out of me.” I’m ambivalent about that response. Before reading one of my character’s letters at a performance in Philadelphia this past year, I printed on a sheet of paper and taped it to the podium. It began “This is the theatre of our dreams…” And in a line from the poem, Mincemeat, “I mean the innocuousness of theatre.” It’s okay, we’re all safe here.

And that’s just the right irony, right. The theatre’s safety of innocuous expression is perhaps the thing that allows transformation of the individual, maybe even an audience, maybe further – a culture.

Yesterday I was so happy to read this from the director, Arthur Penn:

The primary challenges of the theatre should not always be getting people to give a shit
about it. The primary challenge should be to produce plays that reach out to people and
change their lives. Theatre is not an event, like a hayride or a junior prom–it’s an artistic, emotional experience in which people who have privately worked out their stories share them with a group of people who are, without their knowledge, their friends, their peers, their equals, their partners on a remarkable ride. 

Of course, Theatre can be in any moment, any venue or non-venue, as the beholder imagines. Since a young age, I’ve been aware of a daily sense of cinema; now I understand it as the same. I could ramble on much longer but I’ll leave it here for now. In any case, I just put up a little intro to BRUT over at The New Hive. Please feel free to check it out. 

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Surge

Here’s one of the pieces I read/performed at the Boston Poetry Festival in August, for those who inquired. It comes from the larger work of Ta Ming. The video is my original footage & audio mix.

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Tragicon Spectacle: Theory of the Theatre of the Poet

Here’s the piece I read at Jack Krick’s Salon in July.

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